Robert W. “Bob” Stenehjem, 59, died Monday, July 18, 2011, as the result of a one-vehicle rollover accident near Homer, Alaska.
His funeral service will be at 1 p.m. on Monday, July 25 at the National Energy Center of Excellence on the Bismarck State College campus, Bismarck. Officiating will be the Rev. Laurie Natwick, a long-time family friend. Burial will be at St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Bob will lie in repose from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, July 24 in the North Dakota Senate Chambers at the State Capitol and continue one hour prior to the service at the National Energy Center of Excellence. Bob’s friends, colleagues and the public are invited attend to pay their respects to Bob and his family.
Bob was born on Jan. 12, 1952, in Minot. He graduated in 1970 from Bismarck High School and in 1973 from Bismarck Junior College with an Associate of Arts degree.
After working for the North Dakota Highway Department, Bob joined the Bismarck Streets Department in 1978 and rose to become the roads and street foreman for the city of Bismarck, a position he held at the time of his death.
Bob was a tireless upland game and waterfowl hunter. He could hunt for grouse and pheasants sunup to sundown during an entire weekend. He also loved to hunt deer in North Dakota. Alaska was one of his favorite hunting and fishing destinations. Bob was proud of bagging several Alaskan moose over the years and he was an avid fisherman, catching many Alaskan salmon and halibut with his brother John, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Bob taught his sons to hunt, and was looking forward to passing on his love of hunting and fishing to his grandchildren.
Bob began his career in the North Dakota Senate in 1993 representing District 30. As he rose in seniority, he took on leadership roles in numerous committees. He was selected by his Republican colleagues in the Senate as Majority Leader of the Senate, a position he held for the last ten years.
A tenacious conservative who was always willing to embrace fresh ideas, Bob was a champion of individual rights and personal responsibilities. He used his negotiating skills to fight for all citizens of North Dakota. Among his many accomplishments was helping to facilitate oil development on Indian reservations by bringing all parties together to ease the process through legislation he introduced. But everyone agrees his most celebrated accomplishments were achieved behind the scenes, quietly and without seeking credit or the spotlight for himself.
His leadership style was forceful yet respectful. He was known for his sense of fair play and for understanding that in leadership you get more accomplished through cooperation than adversity. Bob understood that there are legitimate differences between the various factions, and he insisted on respectful disagreement and debate.
“Bob showed through his skillful work that he was truly North Dakota's Master of the Senate,” said his brother Wayne, North Dakota’s current Attorney General and former legislator, who served with Bob in the state senate. Their brother Allan represented District 25 in the House at the same time, making them likely the only brothers to serve in a state legislature together.
Bob was a member of Lutheran Church of the Cross in Bismarck. He also belonged to the Bismarck-Mandan Leadership Alumni. He was district chair, Ducks Unlimited; North American Boone and Crockett Club; the National Rifle Association; board member of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation; board member of the American Traffic Safety Services Association; board member of the American Public Works Association and president of the Senate Presidents’ Forum.
A major joy in his life was his “farm” south of Bismarck. He and his wife, Kathy, designed the home and did most of the work building the house and outbuildings. They enjoyed growing acres of sweet corn and potatoes and raising farm animals, including hogs and horses.
Bob was a loving and devoted husband and father and an enthusiastic grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Kathy; children, Lisa Steckler (Shawn), Rob (Karen), Jason (Shanna Stewart-Stenehjem) and Elizabeth; grandchildren, Ashton Steckler, Daniel Stenehjem and Sierra Stenehjem; brothers, John (JaVayne), Anchorage; Steve (Kim), Fargo; Wayne (Beth Bakke Stenehjem), Bismarck, and Allan, Bismarck; sister, Peggy Stenehjem-Titus (Corky), Fargo; brother-in-law, Patrick Brown (Susan), Fargo; sister-in-law, Lisa Stenehjem, Bismarck; aunt Gerridee Wheeler; numerous nieces and nephews and many Stenehjem cousins.
Bob was preceded in death by his father, Martin “Buck” Stenehjem; mother, Marguerite “Peg” McMaster Stenehjem; sister, Susan Stenehjem-Brown; grandparents, aunts and uncles.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to the Bismarck State College Foundation in the name of Bob Stenehjem.
Go to www.bismarckfuneralhome.com to sign the online guest book or to send a message of condolence to the family.